The Marschallin is relishing time with her young lover, when her cousin’s sudden arrival ignites a comic chain of events. With honour at risk, social status bartered and happiness illusive, the Marschallin accepts time cannot be stopped and she must set young love free.
After opening the 2022-23 season in Brussels with Pikovaya Dama, La Monnaie / De Munt now streams Der Rosenkavalier live on OperaVision. The mystery of time resonates throughout Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s highly spiritual and nostalgic libretto, for which Richard Strauss took a step back in time to eighteenth-century Vienna. Waltzing in neoclassical style, with sublime lyricism and a refined orchestral palette, the opera looks back to the past, faded beauty, lost loves. Director Damiano Michieletto sets this intimate study of the human psyche in a snow-white dreamworld embellished with a dash of humour and surrealism. Strauss’s wonderful score – one of the most refined in the entire repertoire – is set to blossom under the baton of Alain Altinoglu.
The Marschallin, Princess von Werdenberg
Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau
Herr von Faninal
Sophie von Faninal
A commissar of police
Juan Francisco Gatell
Three noble daughters
An animal seller
La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra
La Monnaie Choral Academy and La Monnaie Children’s and Youth Choir
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Children and Youth Choir Conductor
The Marschallin’s bedroom
The Marschallin has spent the night with her young lover, Octavian, whom she calls by his pet-name, Quinquin. Hearing voices, they fear that her husband, the Feldmarschall, has returned unexpectedly. Octavian disguises himself as a maidservant but the intruder is the Marschallin’s cousin, Baron Ochs of Lerchenau. The Baron brings news of his forthcoming marriage to Sophie, the daughter of Herr von Faninal, a recently ennobled merchant. He is much taken with Octavian who, unable to escape, is introduced by the Marschallin as Mariandel, her new chambermaid.
Ochs has come to request his cousin’s help in finding someone suitable to make the traditional presentation of a silver rose to his fiancée. The Marschallin objects to the attentions he is paying to her chambermaid but Ochs is unabashed: such actions are a nobleman’s prerogative. He speculates that Mariandel is so pretty she must have blue blood in her veins and boasts of having his own illegitimate offspring in his service, his manservant Leopold. The Marschallin suggests Count Octavian Rofrano as a possible rose-bearer and produces a portrait of him. Ochs is intrigued by the resemblance to Mariandel.
The Marschallin holds her morning levée. The Baron consults her lawyer but loses his temper when told that, as bridegroom, he cannot stipulate the terms of the marriage settlement. He is approached by the mysterious Italians, Valzacchi and Annina, who offer to watch over his fiancée to ensure her fidelity.
When everyone has gone, the Marschallin remembers herself as a young girl, forced into a loveless marriage. When Octavian returns she warns him that one day he will leave her for someone younger. He rejects the very idea. They discuss meeting later and part coolly. The Marschallin realises that she did not even kiss him goodbye and sends her servant after him with the silver rose.
Herr von Faninal’s house
Faninal’s household is in a state of high excitement at the imminent arrival of the rose- bearer. Octavian enters with the silver rose and presents it to Sophie. Following the formalities, they talk, but are interrupted by the arrival of the groom, Baron Ochs. Sophie is appalled by his condescension towards her family and by his boorish behaviour. Speculating on the delights of the wedding night ahead, Ochs congratulates himself on the ‘luck of the Lerchenaus’ and goes off to discuss the marriage contract with Faninal.
Sophie admits to Octavian that she would do anything to avoid the marriage. He promises to help her. They are overheard by Valzacchi and Annina who summon Ochs. He at first laughs off the incident but becomes increasingly furious when Octavian insists that the wedding must be called off. In the ensuing struggle, Ochs is wounded. Faninal orders Octavian to leave but as he goes he enlists the Italians to work for him instead of Ochs. Recovering his temper upon realising that his wound is not life-threatening, Ochs is further cheered by the arrival of Annina with a message from ‘Mariandel’, suggesting a rendezvous at an inn.
A private room at an inn
Valzacchi and his accomplices arrange various surprises for Baron Ochs, under the instruction of Octavian, who is again disguised as Mariandel. Ochs arrives but his attempts at seduction are thwarted by strange interruptions. He rings the bell in terror, only to be confronted by Annina, claiming to be his deserted wife and producing children whom she insists are his. A police commissar arrives and demands that the Baron explain what he is doing with a young girl in his room. When Ochs attempts to extricate himself by explaining that the girl is his fiancée, Faninal appears and is scandalised by the suggestion that Mariandel is his daughter. He sends for Sophie, who is waiting outside, before collapsing from shock. The chaos mounts until the Marschallin enters, summoned by Leopold on his master’s behalf.
Appraising the situation, she quickly takes control. Recognising the commissar as her husband’s former army orderly, she convinces him that this has all been a joke. Ochs persists in trying to insist on his marriage to Sophie but the Marschallin reveals Octavian/Mariandel’s true identity and he is persuaded to leave, pursued by the landlord, waiters and musicians, demanding payment. Sensing Octavian’s dilemma, the Marschallin tells him to go to Sophie. Seeing them together, so clearly in love, she reflects that what she prophesied has come to pass, sooner than she had foreseen.
The Marschallin withdraws, leaving the two young lovers alone.